Fall 1997 – unwelcome attention
“David, are you even listening?” Only now did David notice that his wife was next to him, trying to contact him.
“Yes, Alice, yes. Did something happen?” he turned with a startled look that surprised her. David Říha did not look good. Sunken cheeks, restless, he was wary of every phone call. Alice backed away, realizing the change. Over the last few weeks her husband has been disappearing like a burning sheet of paper. She sat down on the edge of an armchair with a tea-towel in her hand and after a short pause she continued.
“Maybe that’s what I should ask you. David, are you sick?” He looked at her like a beat dog and only shook his head. Then he willed himself to smile, to calm Alice down a bit. She doesn’t need to know everything. She always gets frightened, and can’t help anyway.
“I think I’m just a little tired. That’s all. What’s for dinner?” She stared at him with astonishment, as though he was turning into smoke.
“David, it’s ten in the morning. It’s Sunday. Today is Sunday. It’s morning.” She spoke quietly and slowly.
“I know, yes, I know, Alice. I’m just asking.” He smiled awkwardly and Alice didn’t ask any more questions. She knew that something was wrong. She went into the kitchen and began putting dishes into cupboards. But she couldn’t help it. Quietly she started towards the living room and peeked inside. David was kneeling next to his desk and was organizing some papers in the bottom drawer. Alice watched him for a bit and tried to guess which documents he was sorting. It was evident David was concentrating on his work and was completely cut off from the world around him. Alice made one, then another step into the room and saw a little better what her husband was holding. They were letters. She wanted to know more, but the floor creaked under her bare foot and David jumped up and turned with a scream. The letters fell out of his hands and he began to collect them quickly. In a split second Alice realized that if she demanded to see them right away, she may not be successful. She’d let him throw them into the bottom drawer, listening to him mumble something about bills. But she’ll get to them.
“Would you like some coffee, David?”
“Coffee? Yes, actually, no, maybe yes. Yes, I would like one, thank you, Alice.” She returned to the kitchen, to give him time to put everything back in the bottom drawer. Let him bury it in there however he wants to. She’ll find it.
In the foyer, the phone rang. Before David could run to it, Alice picked it up. She was quiet for a moment, listening.
“This is Aleš Martinec, hi Alice. Can I speak with David?”
“David, it’s for you,” stretching out the receiver, “it’s Aleš.”
“Hey, Aleš,” David exhaled into the phone, pressed it to his hear, and continued in a muffled voice, “what is it this time?”
“Today you’ll need a bucket with water and a mop. Mop with a long stick, David.”
“Is something broken? Door? Windows?”
“It didn’t seem that way.”
“What is it? Spray? Paint? Plaster? Mud?”
“I don’t think it’s mud.” David put his head in his palm and was speechless. He pulled up a chair, feeling a little reinvigorated with the smell of coffee.
“I’ll drive over. I’ll fix it.”
“I’m so sorry, David. I also think you shouldn’t have bought the car. You know, people don’t want to see that. It adds up. People also know that you guys want to warm up in the Dominican Republic this winter.”
“Should I keep it a secret? I wonder if anyone also sees all the projects we support financially.”
“Slow down, don’t be mad at me, David.”
“I know, I’m sorry. It’s only temporary. It’ll pass. I’m sure of it.”
“I hope you’re right. Did any of this reflect on your clientele leaving?”
“No. More and more people are coming, and recently they published a piece about us in Germany. I’d also like to open up an educational institution. For now just introductory programs, and then go from there. It has huge potential. But I’m a little nervous about it, Aleš.”
“I’m glad to hear it. In the winter you’ll have young Janík for extra security, he’ll be the right man for the job.” There was something strange in his tone, as he said this. “Such good fortune for someone so young, who wouldn’t want that. I’m sure he will guard your alternative medicine jewel while you’re getting tanned.” Říha pulled away from the phone and stared at it, confused. The voice continued. “I’m joking, David. Would you like me to come help you right now?”
“No, thank you, Aleš. This I’ll have to do alone.”
“Ok, good luck then, and I’m sorry. Hopefully it’ll stop soon.” David hung up the phone and couldn’t wrap his head around it all. Why is he picking on Dr. Janík so much? Does he want to work there too?
“Is something the matter?” asked Alice. She’d been suspecting for a while now that something’s not right. David looked at her and smiled.
“Everything will be alright. Don’t worry, it will settle. I’ll have the coffee when I get back. I have to go to the clinic now.” She asked no more. Maybe she’ll find some clues about his mood in those letters. Does he have someone else? One of the nurses. Those are always ready to play with someone’s head. They don’t even have to play with their head; men are all the same anyway. Let him go to the clinic then. He spends all his time there anyway.
Doctor Říha walked into the street, and at first didn’t know what’d happened. He looked to the right, to the left, then across the street, and didn’t understand. How come his Fort Mustang was on the other side of the road? “Am I such an idiot!” he mumbled to himself. David slowly crossed the street and walked around his vehicle from all sides. Shaking his head, he looked to his usual parking spot. He was certain he’d parked on his side of the road the night before. Yes, yes, for sure. In front of him was Mrázek’s space, yes, he definitely parked next to the house! Or was it the day before? Maybe. The car was fine, everything the way it should be, not even a scratch. He unlocked the door and sat down. Nothing unusual.
After a short moment of hesitation David turned the ignition key. Everything was fine. He drove out. Tonight he was driving slower than normally. There were too many question marks in the air.
Alice waited another minute. Then she bent down to the bottom drawer. Locked? How come? The key from the top drawer was missing. But she found it in the upper left drawer. Easy.
In her hands she was now holding a total of twelve envelopes. All were open and addressed in red pen. That didn’t look like love letters. She withdrew the first one and read.
DID SHE LIKE HER RIDE IN THE MUSTANG? MAYBE THERE’S A SOUVENIR PHOTO.
She flipped the letter over and felt disgusted by it. What does this mean? Carefully, she returned it into the envelope and took a second one. Alice continued to read.
DO YOU THINK THAT CLINIC OF YOURS IS FLAMMABLE?
Her heart was pounding now. She replaced the sheet and reached for a third one.
THE CLINIC CAUSES YOU WORRY, DOESN’T IT? DO YOU WANT TO LOSE THE CLINIC, OR YOUR LIF…
Alice screamed. She didn’t want to read that. Frightened, she dropped the letter on the floor. Had no courage to read on. She covered her mouth and burst out crying.
Doctor Říha parked in front of the Alternative Clinic and for a minute just watched from a distance. On the glass entrance door, the wall, and on the information board was hideously smeared what he’d already guessed from his conversation with Aleš. He thought that deoxyribonucleic acid may help here, and grinned a little at the thought.
He was about to get out of his car, when his cell phone rang. David picked up and introduced himself. Silence on the other end. Nobody there. At least nobody said anything, and no number appeared on the display. Říha looked around. Sunday morning. In front of the clinic an elderly couple was casually walking their dog, two girls walking towards them in the opposite direction, giggling at something, and across at the garden centre a young guy was pushing a wheelbarrow with dirt. Also an elderly woman, whom David recognized, was shaking her small boy’s hand; he evidently didn’t want to go for a walk. Closing the phone, David stepped out of the car, continuing to look around. He didn’t see anyone.
Still, David felt as though someone was watching him while he washed the wall.